Together, 3 volumes, 8vo. Folding map tipped-in each volume. Original red cloth (slightly leaned); pictorial dust jackets (closed tear crossing front panel and portion of spine and 1 ½-in. separation to upper joint of The Fellowship, some minor losses to spine ends, some minor soiling or creasing, a few short tears) ; half morocco folding case. Provenance: George Sayer (1914-2005), teacher at Malvern College, biographer of C. S. Lewis (signature in vol. I, see below).
FIRST EDITIONS, often read as allegories of good versus evil. In a new preface to the 1965 edition, Tolkien wrote: "As for any inner meaning or 'message,' it has in the intention of the author none. It is neither allegorical nor topical." In his essay entitled "On Fairy-Stories," Tolkien describes his purpose in writing about an imaginary world: "The peculiar quality of the 'joy' in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a 'consolation' for sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question, 'Is it true?' The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): 'If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world."
A FINE ASSOCIATION. George Sayer, a close friend of Tolkien, was an encourager of Tolkien’s work, and was influential in persuading him to re-submit The Lord of the Rings for publication. By 1952, after unsuccessful attempts to find a publisher, The Lord of the Rings seemed doomed; in that year, C. S. Lewis, Tolkien’s friend, had loaned the typescript to Sayer, who read it with enthusiasm. Sayer invited Tolkien to his home at Malvern for a short visit and to retrieve the manuscript.
Of the visit, Sayer recalls: “To entertain him in the evening I produced a tape recorder…He had never seen one before and said whimsically that he ought to cast out any devil that might be in it by recording a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer in Gothic, one of the extinct languages of which he was a master…[I] asked if he might record some of the poems in The Lord of the Rings to find out how they sounded to other people. The more he recorded, the more he enjoyed recording and the more his literary self-confidence grew…I think I asked him to record what he thought one of the best pieces of prose in The Lord of the Rings, and he recorded part of ‘The Ride of the Rohirrim.’ ‘Surely you know that’s really good?’ I asked after playing it back. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘it’s good. This machine has made me believe in it again. But how am I to get it published?’ (The Bulletin of the New York C. S. Lewis Society, No. 450, July/August 2012). Sayer suggested sending the manuscript to Rayner Unwin, ultimately resulting in the publication of Tolkien’s beloved work, which sold over three million copies in Tolkien’s lifetime. Hammond A5a-i, ii, and iii; Bleiler 1606; Pringle, Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels 16; Cawthorn & Moorcock, Fantasy: The 100 Best Books 76.